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20
Aug

Got a new TV? Save some money with our guide on how to wall mount a TV


If you’re finally replacing that 70-pound CRT TV you bought back in the go-go 90s, then you’re probably getting excited about wall-mounting your TV. We’ve talked about why you shouldn’t mount your TV over your fireplace (if you’re considering it, stop now, step away from the TV, and call a professional installer!), but there’s nothing wrong with standard wall mounting. Mounting a TV on the wall makes a lot of sense for most people, as it frees up space in the home and, generally speaking, is a practical move. But the practice can be intimidating for some. How do you wall mount a TV, anyway?

Mounting a TV can be as quick and easy as a cup of joe, but make one mistake and it can feel as complex as a triple mochacchino. The process involves putting four bolts in the wall to hold a bracket, hanging the TV on it, and … well, that’s it. Voilà, you’re done. Simple, right?

To help you out, we’ve put together this list of expert tips. We’ll help you avoid common mistakes and overcome the silly obstacles.

Your stud finder is a liar

Electric stud finders are tricky little tools. They can be one of the most helpful tools in the box or the reason you put a dozen extra holes in the wall. Simply put, they’re liars. But here are four tips that help ensure they never trick you again.

Go slow – To be effective, stud finders need to be properly calibrated. First, place yours on the wall and turn it on, often by holding in a button. Let the stud finder read the density of the material (this will only take a second or two), then slowly move it from side to side. Go back and forth over the wall a few times, starting from a different spot with each pass. Mark each stud you discover with a piece of painter’s tape. We recommend finding three and using a tape measure to make sure they are the same distance apart. This will help you avoid false positives.

Popcorn ceilings defeated – Have you ever tried to run a stud finder across a ceiling with popcorn texturing? Not only do you ruin the texture, the stud finder doesn’t work well. An easy way to overcome this problem is to place a piece of cardboard over the area you want to scan. The cardboard gives the stud finder a smooth surface to slide across and will allow you to easily find the joists.

Don’t forget fire blocks – Before drilling any holes, run your stud finder vertically up and down the wall to ensure there are no fire blocks running horizontally between the stud bays. Fire blocks can make fishing wires down the wall very difficult, even for experienced installers.

Always double check – Stud finders can be fooled fairly easily. They’ll often read a seam in the drywall as a stud. After you have marked your studs and where you want to drill your holes, you should use something to poke into the wall to ensure you actually marked a stud. We normally use a small precision screwdriver, but a cut-off coat hanger or piano wire will work fine. We would recommend doing this by hand, rather than using a power tool, as you will have a better feel for what’s inside the wall. You can also tap a small nail into the wall; get past the drywall without the nail “falling in” and you’ve found a stud. The last thing you should do before drilling is poke a little hole to the left and right of where you want to drill and make sure you are still on the stud. This will ensure you are centered on a stud, and not just clipping its side (and possibly hitting something electrical).

We’re doomed, the studs are in the wrong spot … or there aren’t any

You found the perfect spot to mount a TV in your home. You’ve read all of our tips on using a stud finder, and are ready to go. But after twenty minutes of scanning for studs you can’t find any, or the results are inconsistent, or they don’t line up with the holes on your wall mount. There are a number of solutions that don’t require much, if any, extra work, to fix your little problem.

Take off covers – If you can’t locate the studs with a stud finder, locate an outlet on the wall (or any other fixture, like a cold air return). All outlets are attached to studs, unless they were added after the wall was up (not common). By taking off the wall plate, you can stick a thin tool into the gap between the side of the electrical box and the drywall, and then feel which side the stud is on. From there, measure over 16 inches and you should find another stud. Keep going 16 inches at a time until you are in the area where you want to mount the TV. Then use a small tool to poke a hole in the wall to see if a stud is actually there.

Make your own holes – What if you found studs, but they don’t lineup with the holes on your bracket? Easy: make extra holes on the wall bracket. The best way to do this is to use a stepped drill bit (like an Irwin UniBit) and a powerful drill. A good stepped drill bit will quickly cut through a steel wall mount.

Use a toggle – If there simply aren’t any studs where you want to mount the TV, then you need to use some sort of hollow wall anchor. These can be extremely strong, but as a general rule should not be used with full-motion, or articulating, mounts. The ¼” SNAPTOGGLE is hands down the best hollow wall anchor on the market, and a few of them can comfortably hold new 55-inch TVs on a single sheet of drywall. Mounting a TV on drywall or plaster without attaching to a stud can be a very safe and reliable solution IF you know the limits of the wall and the toggles. As a professional home theater installer, we used toggles many times and never had a TV fall off the wall. We know of other installers who over-estimated the strength of the wall and ended up with a TV on the ground. In the end, if you aren’t comfortable performing the install, consider hiring a professional.

Please, hide ALL of the cords in the wall

Nothing ruins the look of a nice TV mounted on the wall quicker than a tangle of exposed wires. Luckily, hiding cables inside the wall is fairly cheap and easy. The simplest way to achieve this is with an IWPE (in-wall power extension) or power bridge kit. These kits come with everything you need to run power up to your TV — and hide all of your signal wires as well (some even come with a cutting tool). You might be thinking: “Why not just drop an extension cord in the wall instead of installing an outlet?” Well, it’s actually against National Electric Code (NEC) to drop a power cord or extension cord inside the wall. It’s also not legal to put low-voltage cables like HDMI inside the wall unless they’re CL3 rated for in-wall use — one reason expensive HDMI cables are worth buying.

You may not need the extra HDMI ports on your TV now, but you may want to add components to your home theater system in the future. Put in extra HDMI cables and run them through the wall so that you have them when you need them.

An IWPE is exactly like it sounds, an extension cord rated to go inside the wall. In the end, you will have an outlet behind your TV, and what’s called an inlet down by the floor (at the same height as your other outlets). In order to provide power to the kit, you connect an extension cord from an existing outlet to the inlet. Confusing? Check out these diagrams.

Before you begin installation, ensure your low-voltage cables are rated for in-wall use. The next thing to know about IWPE kits is that they come with a pre-determined length of electrical wire, typically 6-8 feet. Also note that they should be used only in a single stud bay, and they are not designated for use above a fireplace. Of course, these limitations can be overcome or ignored, but we don’t recommend bending the rules (some good old CYA).

If you can’t hide cables inside the wall, then try installing a paintable wire channel. Most of these simply stick to the wall, and allow you to hide all of your cables inside, providing for a clean look. Just know that when you remove the wire channel you will likely also remove the paint.

Maybe if I pull harder the cable will reach

Always buy longer cables than your think you need. This is the most often ignored piece of advice we give people. It doesn’t matter if your TV is going on a wall or sitting on a stand, buy longer cables than you think you need. Extra wire can be wrapped up, stuffed in a wall, or otherwise hidden. If the cables are too short you risk them falling out, simply not reaching, breaking, or worse yet, damaging your equipment.

For a typical flat panel installation, with a tilting wall mount and equipment located directly below the TV, 8-foot cables will work nicely. Twelve-foot cables will allow you to make connections before the TV is on the wall, or pull out the equipment once it is hooked up. If you’re mounting a TV higher than normal (the bottom of the average TV is between 36 inches and 46 inches from the floor), or using a full-motion mount, you’ll need 12-foot cabling. If that seems excessive, consider this: on a typical full-motion mount with a 20-inch arm, you will use 3 to 4 feet of cable before even reaching the wall; that is, if it’s properly routed to allow safe movement of the TV on the arm.

A final note on cables: Try to avoid those with bulky connectors. These types of cables might not fit properly behind a slim LED or even plug in for that matter.

Wait, that doesn’t look level

Everything is cut, drilled, assembled, tightened, and otherwise wrapped up. You step back to take a look at your newly wall mounted TV, but something isn’t right. The TV isn’t level. What do you do? Do you need to pull it down? Drill new holes in the wall? Cry? Cry really hard? Probably none of the above. There is almost always a way to level an un-level TV. Just know that sometimes a TV will never look level if the ceiling, floor, or mantle isn’t level. Check these other areas before you go mad trying to level the TV.

  • Put your back into it – Walk up to the TV as it hangs on the wall, grab onto the sides, and then try to force it into being level. No, really. Your success here depends on how snug the bolts are that hold the wall mount arms on the back of the TV. If they aren’t over tightened, you should have a little wiggle room to help level the TV. As a side note, if you do this and the TV comes off the wall, you did something wrong … so be careful.
  • Loosen, push, tighten – Take the TV off the wall, loosen the bolts holding the arms on the back of the TV, then push up/down on the arms as you tighten them back down. Put the TV back on the wall and see if it’s level. If it isn’t, then do the same thing with the wall plate.
  • Improvise – If you used up all of the wiggle room available and it still isn’t level, make more wiggle room. You can use the stepped drill bit we talked about earlier to round out the holes in the arms or wall plate. This may give you the little extra space needed; just don’t go too crazy and make the holes unusable. If you accidentally make the holes so big that bolts slip through, you can always buy larger washers.

Conclusion

All of the tips listed come from years of firsthand experience mounting hundreds of TVs on wood studs, steel studs, plaster, brick, from the ceiling, you name it.  Some of them are common sense, but almost none will be found in an instruction manual. If you have the right tools, a few hours, and patience, then you can mount your own TV. Do be sure to budget your time appropriately. A simple wall mount (tiling mount, drywall, exposed wiring) might take a professional only 20 minutes from unboxing to finished install. A novice should plan to read the instructions, proceed cautiously, and free up an afternoon. After all, it’s never fun to break a TV.




20
Aug

Bargain laptop battle: Acer Swift 3 versus Asus ZenBook UX330UA


Why it matters to you

If you’re looking for a good value laptop, then you’ll want to check out these two. Make sure to check out our conclusion to see which gives the most bang for your buck.

There was a time when “value laptop” meant an underpowered Black Friday special at Walmart built from cheap plastic, with a barely-visible display. Those days are over. Today, “value laptop” means a machine with a solid chassis and decent components for a much more affordable price. In our Acer Swift 3 versus Asus ZenBook UX330UA showdown, we pit two recent value machines against each other to see which is the affordable champion.

We reviewed the 13.3-inch ZenBook UX330UA in a configuration that includes a seventh-generation Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD, for $730. Our review Acer Swift 3 was identically equipped for $650. We found them both to offer solid value for the money, with a bunch of great qualities that make them well-suited for buyers who need a workhorse productivity machine that won’t weigh them down, nor make their wallets feel too much lighter. Yet there are enough differences between the two machines to make for a clear winner.

Specs

Acer Swift 3

Asus ZenBook UX330UA

Size
13.43 x 9.31 x 0.71 inches
12.7 x 8.7 x 0.53 inches
Weight
3.31 pounds
2.64 pounds
Display
14-inch IPS non-touch display
13.3-inch IPS non-touch display
Resolution
1,920 x 1,080 pixels (157 ppi)
3,200 x 1,800 (276 PPI)
1,920 x 1,080 (165 PPI)
Operating System
Windows 10
Windows 10
Storage
128GB, 256GB, 512GB PCIe SSD
256GB or 512GB SATA SSD
Processor
7th generation Intel Core i3, i5, i7
7th generation Intel Core i5, i7
RAM
4GB or 8GB LPDDR3
4GB or 8GB LPDDR3
Camera/Webcam
Front HD webcam
Front HD webcam
Keyboard
Backlit chiclet
Backlit chiclet
Connectivity
Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
Biometrics
Windows Hello fingerprint scanner
Windows Hello fingerprint scanner
Battery
49 watt-hour lithium polymer
57 watt-hour lithium polymer
Ports
1 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 2 x USB 2.0 Type-A, 1 X USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x HDMI, SD card reader, combo audio jack
2 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type C, 1 x micro-HDMI, microSDXC card reader, combo audio jack
Price
$500 to $850
 $700-780
Availability

Newegg, Amazon

Amazon
DT review
4 out of 5
4.5 out of 5

Build quality adds value, but one is just a bit better

There was a time not too long ago when buying a machine close to the $500 price point meant accepting cheap plastic and a creaky design. Those days are over, and we’ll begin by talking about design and build quality — both the Acer Swift 3 and the Asus ZenBook UX330UA sport a metal chassis and solid builds that belie their relatively budget prices.

As a 14-inch machine, the Acer Swift 3 is naturally a bit larger than the ZenBook. It weighs in at 3.31 pounds and is a tiny bit chunky at 0.71 inches, with metal used in both the display lid and the lower half giving it a build that we described at robust and premium. We noticed some flexing in the chassis when we really pressed the issue (no pun intended) but in normal use, the Swift 3 felt plenty solid.

The ZenBook UX330UA was thinner at 0.53 inches, and lighter at 2.6 pounds, given its smaller display and overall chassis size. It also benefits from a generous helping of metal in its chassis, and the “spun metal concentric circle” pattern that’s common to the Asus line added a bit of design flair. The build quality was also solid, with no more flex than Acer’s value-oriented machine.

While the competition is close here, we give the nod to the ZenBook. It’s quite a bit more portable, feels a bit more luxurious, and stands out more than the Acer Swift 3 because of the concentric circle pattern etched into the lid.

Winner: Asus Zenbook UX330UA

Two solid mid-range performers, but better thermals and faster storage wins out

As noted earlier, we reviewed identically equipped machines. Both came with workhorse Intel Core i5-7200U processors and 8GB of RAM. The main difference in terms of performance was the choice of solid-state drive (SSD) technology. Acer went with the faster and more modern PCIe version, while Asus saved some money by going with the older — and slower — SATA version.

Unsurprisingly, performance in the Geekbench benchmark was nearly identical, with the Acer Swift 3 scoring 3,809 in the single-core test and 7,515 in the multi-core test, and the ZenBook UX 330UA scoring 3,711 and 7,075. Those are close enough to be a wash.

On the other hand, in our more intensive Handbrake test that encodes a 420GB video to H.265 format, the Acer Swift 3 took 1,084 seconds and the Asus ZenBook UX 330UA took a significantly longer 1,445 seconds — that is significant. It’s possible that the ZenBook’s thinner chassis wasn’t as good at dissipating heat, and so the CPU was throttled.

Next, the Acer Swift 3’s PCIe SSD scored 1,169 MB/s on the CrystalDiskMark read test and 512 MB/s on the write test. That compares to the Asus ZenBook UX330UA’s slower SATA SSD, that could garner only 489 MB/s in the read test and 422 MB/s in the write test. While both machines were plenty fast in terms of booting, opening apps, and accessing and saving data, the Swift 3 promises to avoid slowdowns when working with lots of stored data compared to the ZenBook UX330UA.

In the end, both machines are solid performers, particularly for the price. But when it comes to heavier workloads, the Acer Swift 3’s thicker chassis helps it maintain higher speeds and its faster SSD gets a performance assist as well.

Winner: Acer Swift 3

Backlighting and Windows Hello bring some real value to low-priced laptops

One area where manufacturers sometimes cut down on costs in value laptops is the keyboard and touchpad. It’s not uncommon to receive a mushy keyboard and unresponsive touchpad if you’re not willing to pay considerably more money. We’re happy to report that both Asus and Acer spent some time getting their respective input mechanism in order.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The keyboard on the Acer Swift 3 offers a solid typing experience, and the keys are backlit with two brightness levels and, unfortunately, some uneven lighting. The expansive touchpad supports Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad protocol and so worked without issue across the full complement of Windows 10 gestures. Windows Hello support is provided by a fingerprint reader to the right of the touchpad.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Asus ZenBook UX330UA’s keyboard is similarly comfortable, with good spacing, a generous palm rest, and a respectable 1.5mm of key travel. The ZenBook’s backlighting offers three brightness levels, but we found all of them to be too dim, and lighting was also uneven. The touchpad also provides Microsoft Precision Touchpad gesture support, and was adequately sized, but we found the surface to be too slick for comfort. Finally, the Windows Hello fingerprint scanner was a welcome addition, but we found its placement in the upper-right corner of the touchpad to be distracting — it doesn’t support touch, so it takes away from the overall swiping area.

It’s a close call here, but the Acer Swift 3 seemed just that tiniest bit more pleasant for typing and gesturing, and we preferred the location of its fingerprint scanner. Therefore, it earned the win by the narrowest of margins.

Winner: Acer Swift 3

Plenty of ports, but one machine is just a little more connected

More expensive newer systems (outside of Microsoft’s Surface line) are likely to include the newest USB Type-C port. Value laptops haven’t all caught on to the new standard yet, but don’t tell that to Acer and Asus. Both of the machines include USB Type-C connections and so are relatively future-proof when it comes to connecting to newer accessories. Neither machine added in Thunderbolt 3 support, which is a bummer, but not surprising at this price point. Also, both machines disallow charging via USB Type-C, and so require proprietary power adapters.

The Acer Swift 3 is the thicker machine, as we’ve noted, and another area where some extra girth can come in handy is in connectivity. Acer took full advantage of that fact, packing in two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a USB 2.0 Type-A port, and the USB Type-C port, to go with a full-size HDMI connection, an SD card reader, and a combo audio jack. That’s a solid selection of ports that ensure you can plug in a full complement of peripherals.

The Asus ZenBook UX330A also offers two USB 3.0 Type-A ports to go with the USB Type-C port, but it eschews USB. 2.0. It slips in a micro-HDMI port a, a microSDXC card reader, and a combo audio port. That’s a fair complement of ports for a thin-and-light machine.

Both machines offer good connectivity and are future-proof given the support for USB Type-C. The ZenBook UX330UA has one fewer port, it requires an adapter to connect to full-size HDMI, and it doesn’t support full-size SD cards. Overall, this category has a clear winner.

Winner: Acer Swift 3

One display was clearly superior

Both of our the Acer Swift 3 and ZenBook UX330UA review units came equipped with Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) displays. That’s more common for value laptops, but not yet ubiquitous. Yet it doesn’t mean that we found the displays to be identical.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

To begin with, the Acer Swift 3 is a 14-inch machine, and so a Full HD display is a bit less sharp at 157 PPI compared to the 13.3-inch ZenBook’s 165 PPI. That’s not enough to tell a huge difference, but pixel peepers might discern a few more pixels on the Swift 3. Beyond that, Acer chose a decent but not great display that offered only average contrast at 540:1, below-average color gamut at 67 percent of sRGB and 50 percent of AdobeRGB, and low brightness at only 242 nits. Color accuracy was average at 2.34 (1.o or less is considered excellent).

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Asus ZenBook UX330UA, on the other hand, didn’t only rely on its slightly sharper display to be superior here. It also enjoyed almost twice the contrast at 940:1, covered a much more dynamic 98 percent of sRGB and 74 percent of AdobeRGB, and was much brighter at 315 nits. Color accuracy was also average at 2.56. The display was anti-glare, and so performed better in bright lighting than the Swift 3’s glossy display.

Simply put, the Asus ZenBook UX330U scores big here. Its display is sharper, brighter, enjoys better color, and has significantly better contrast. It’s also more comfortable to use in bright environments. For its first win, the ZenBook’s much superior display is significant.

Winner: Asus ZenBook UX330UA

One lasts a lot longer than the other, and which one might surprise you

As mentioned earlier, the ZenBook UX330UA is a bit lighter and a bit thinner than the Acer Swift 3, due in part to its smaller display. That makes the ZenBook easier to slip into a backpack and head out for work.

When it comes to how long each machine will last away from a plug, the dichotomy is a little more clear cut. Whereas Acer made use of the Swift 3’s thicker chassis to squeeze in better connectivity, it left some space unused when it came to packing in the battery. The Swift 3 had to make due with a 49 watt-hour battery, which resulted in respectable but not outstanding battery life. In our video loop test that replays an Avengers trailer from local storage until the battery gives out, the Swift 3 lasted for 10 hours and 22 minutes. In our web browsing loop test, it lasted for six hours and 14 minutes.

Asus was a little more aggressive in making room for a battery with the ZenBook UX330UA, managing to cram in 57 watt-hours of battery capacity. That resulted in a machine that lasted considerably longer in our battery tests. The ZenBook UX330UA lasted almost three hours long when looping our test video, at 13 hours and three minutes. Our web browsing test told a similar story, with the ZenBook lasting an impressive 10 hours and 25 minutes — more than four hours longer than the Acer Swift 3.

Clearly, the Asus ZenBook UX330UA is going to let you get more work done when you can’t plug in. And it’s lighter to boot.

Winner: Asus ZenBook UX330UA

Availability and price

Acer has a number of configurations listed for the Swift 3, ranging from $500 for a machine with a Core i3-7100U CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD all the way up to $850 for a Core i7-7500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 5126GB SSD. Our review unit was priced at $650 for a Core i5-7200U, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD. All Swift 3 machines come with Full HD displays.

Currently, although Asus plans for more configurations, the ZenBook UX330UA is basically available in two configurations. Our review unit with a Full HD display, Core i5-7200U, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD cost $730, and the same configuration with QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) resolution is available for $780.

While the Acer Swift 3 is a bit less expensive and comes in more configurations (some of them quite pricey), the Asus ZenBook UX330UA wins us over for offering a higher resolution display. They both are well-priced value laptops, but we give a slight edge to the ZenBook.

Winner: Asus ZenBook UX330UA

Conclusion

Two value laptops entered this battle, and the Acer Swift 3 took home some early wins. Its performance was better than the Asus ZenBook UX330UA could muster, at least in terms of storage speeds and when the CPU was being pushed to the max. It also has slightly better connectivity and input, with one additional port, full-size connections, slightly better keyboard backlighting, and superior fingerprint scanner placement.

The Asus ZenBook UX330UA came on strong, however. It enjoys a superior display that’s more usable in all light conditions and just looks so much better. And, it lasts considerably longer away from a plug. Display quality and battery life are two very important laptop characteristics, and the ZenBook scored some huge wins here. Toss in the availability of a higher resolution display for not too much more, and we’re convinced that the ZenBook UX330UA is the superior value laptop.




20
Aug

Stop spam calls with the best call- and text-blocker apps


Unwanted calls and texts are a serious problem. There were almost 30 billion robocalls in the U.S. last year according to YouMail research. Thankfully, the Federal Communications Commission is acting to try and protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls and text messages, and manufacturers and service providers are offering various options to help you block nuisance callers on your smartphone, but it’s not always enough.

We’ve looked at how to block calls on an iPhone and how to block a number in Android before, but in this article, we’re going to highlight the best call and text blocker apps for Android and iOS. These apps are easy to use, they draw on large databases of spam numbers, and they’ll help you rid yourself of spam callers once and for all.

Should I Answer?

Relying on a community-generated and fully evaluated database of problem numbers, Should I Answer provides you with the information you need to decide whether to take an incoming call or not. Telemarketers, scammers, and other unsolicited calls are divided into categories and assigned ratings, so you can see at-a-glance, as your phone is ringing, how legitimate the incoming call is likely to be. User reviews provide more detail and you can submit your own ratings and reviews on the calls you receive.

It’s easy to block numbers, so all future calls are rejected, and there are lots of useful configuration options, including the ability to block outgoing calls to premium numbers. More reasons to recommend this app include the fact that it allows you to decide what information you submit to the database, it doesn’t access your contacts, and it works offline. This is our favorite call blocking app for Android, but sadly it isn’t available for the iPhone.

Download now for:

Android

Hiya Caller ID and Block

This a straightforward call blocking app that’s easy to use. It automatically identifies callers and flags robocalls, telemarketers, debt collectors and known fraudsters based on a huge database containing hundreds of millions of numbers. Because the app draws on such a large database of numbers it can often identify legitimate callers as well, so that you know when you should answer. You can build a block list easily and there’s a facility to reverse look-up numbers from your call log.

What we don’t like about Hiya is the fact that it accesses your contacts and uploads them to the database, albeit in encrypted form. The company promises they’re only used to match information and build a whitelist, and that it will never sell them on, but you should check out the privacy policy and decide for yourself before you install. Hiya is available for both Android and iOS, and it’s made by the same developer behind Mr. Number.

Download now for:

iPhone Android

More call and text blocker apps

Having tried a few different call blocking apps, we can recommend Should I Answer for Android users without any caveats. Hiya is very good for iOS, but you do need to consider the privacy issue. If you’re wondering about alternatives, here’s a quick look at some of your options.

If you want a call blocking app for your iPhone, but you aren’t prepared to share your contacts with the developer, then you might want to check out Nomorobo. It can identify and block known robocalls and scammers, but it costs $2 per month after the free 30-day trial period and a lot of users have encountered bugs.

Probably the biggest name in the call blocking app arena is Truecaller, which is available for Android and iOS. It has a community built database and millions of users, so it does identify spam calls quite accurately and it can block unwanted calls, but the privacy policy is a cause for concern. It collects a lot of personal information, accesses your contacts, and, rather ironically, shares that data with third parties, which is why we can’t recommend it.

There are many other highly-rated call and text blocker apps in the Play Store and the App Store, but we advise you to proceed with caution and read the privacy policies before you install. If you’re serious about protecting your privacy, then you might also be interested in the best Android security apps or the best iPhone security apps.




20
Aug

Classic fighting game ‘Tekken’ is now available on mobile


Why it matters to you

If you’re a big fan of the series and are looking for more mobile games, this release is going to be perfect for you.

The classic fighting series Tekken has been a fan favorite for nearly a couple of decades. The first game debuted way back in 1994, and Tekken 7 was the latest release in 2015 — with a re-release earlier this summer. Originally starting out as a PlayStation release, other games in the series eventually became available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U and PC. Now the game will be making its way to the mobile world.

Japanese game publisher Bandai Namco Entertainment has just announced that the popular game will be coming to both Android and iOS very soon, according to AndroidHeadlines. The game is open for pre-registration today, and iOS users in Canada have already been given a preview of the game. Special in-app bonuses will also be given to anyone who pre-registers for the game. As more and more people pre-register, more and more content as well as in-game rewards will be made available during the global launch of the game. You might want to get your pre-registration done today!

There’s going to be a lot to unpack and plenty of fun things for fans to look forward to in Tekken Mobile. You’ll have a vast selection of fighters to choose from, as the game will allow you to collect over 100 playable characters, all of which will have upgrades and new moves to unlock. You’ll even be able to create an original play style for them. Players will have to choose a team of three different fighters, much like Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2 for mobile, to compete in online matches or Story Mode.

In Story Mode, you will create a team of three to help Kazuya Mishima defeat a new enemy named Revenant, a character created just for the mobile game. Bandai Namco is also going to be hosting live events with different-themed content, and you’ll even be able to challenge other players in Dojo Mode.

Players will need Android 4.4 and more than 1GB of RAM to be able to play the game on your phone or tablet device. The game will have plenty of other titles to compete with, so it will be free to play once it launches globally.




20
Aug

Sheeple, scuzzballs, and BFFs — See the words first used the year you were born


Why it matters to you

Tracking when words and phrases were first used is a way to understand the progression of pop culture.

Merriam-Webster has unveiled a new addition to its site, which is sure to delight amateur etymologists everywhere — a Time Traveler dictionary that lists words that were created during a specific year.

Are you older than “air guitar”? How about “cybersex,” “junk food,” or “elevator music”? Simply plug in the year of your birth to reveal a list of words that can trace their first known use back to that date.

Etymology is an inexact science, as Merriam-Webster points out in their explanation of “First Known Use” dates. Many words were used as slang in spoken language long before they made their way to a printed publication. The dates given in the Time Traveler generally refer to the earliest written use that the editors have been able to uncover. New discoveries about the nature of language and the first use of certain words or phrases will undoubtedly lead to updates in the list.

The latest Time Traveler entries are from 2010 (Arab Spring, gamification), but these lists are sure to grow in the decades ahead. Dictionary editors add thousands of new words to their lists every year, much to the consternation of Scrabble aficionados. Not only that, but etymologists do like to have some highbrow fun from time to time, such as their veiled dig at Apple when they added “sheeple” to their dictionary in 2017.

For word nerds, the Time Traveler is an interesting look back at the development of pop culture as reflected in language throughout the decades. If you were born in 1990, you’re the same age as tighty-whiteys, spam, and velociraptor. 1980 babies can count ziplock, comb-over, and high-five among their brethren. Meanwhile older folk born in 1970 welcomed love handles, beeper, and granola to the Merriam-Webster lexicon. Users on Twitter (first known use: 14th century) are already having a lot of fun with the new tool.

So, take a trip down memory lane with the Time Traveler and find out what words were brand new back when you were a mere youngling.




20
Aug

Essential wants your attention as much as your money (for now)


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Essential isn’t even trying to compete with Samsung or even LG with their first phone.

You’ve probably read at least one “first look” at the Essential Phone. They all have a few things in common, and mostly leave us with the impression that it’s an interesting first try from a new company. It’s definitely an ambitious device in some ways, especially in the looks department. What you’re probably not going to see is the Essential Phone at the top of any “must buy” lists beside the Samsung Galaxy S8 or LG G6. And I think that’s just fine with Andy Rubin (the founder of Android) and company.

At least for now.

It’s almost impossible for a new company to come along and make any headway in the Android world. Samsung takes almost all the business, and long-established brands like Motorola, HTC, and LG fight over the scraps, hoping to turn a profit. It takes three things to compete: a good product, agreements with U.S. carriers, and millions of dollars in advertising. At first glance, Essential has a good product, but that’s where its competitiveness ends. Partnering with Sprint and TELUS alone and relying on word-of-mouth advertising just isn’t good enough if you want to move a lot of product.

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Andy Rubin knows this. Jason Mackenzie, head of sales for Essential and former president of HTC America, knows this. Everyone involved with the Essential Phone knows this. And while the company wouldn’t complain if it ended up selling 20 million Essential Phones, it probably has simple, more focused goals right now: getting enthusiasts and industry people to talk about something new and grabbing our attention. That’s a safe play and a smart play for the first phone from a brand new company. It costs money to build phones that have to sit in a warehouse waiting to be bought. It takes compromise (at least initially) to get companies like Verizon and AT&T to put your phones on their shelves and in their warehouses because that means they have less room for iPhones and Galaxy phones. And we all know how expensive advertising can be. A new company, no matter how well-known the people who built it are, has to be very careful.

Essential doesn’t want to be a company that sells phones; it wants to be a company that also sells phones.

Essential has another trick up its sleeve, too — plans for a whole-house automation line. That’s probably a harder sell than a phone, but that market doesn’t have a Samsung to run away with all the numbers and Essential has one awesome thing to show people with a phone that looks very different and will act as a universal remote for everything in your house. Rubin and his team are wizards at smart machines, automation, and robotics. If they can catch your eye with a slick device like the Essential Phone, they can continue to impress with a line of home products that are attractive and work as advertised. Rather, if they can catch the eye of a non-enthusiast who only knows about Amazon’s Echo and Alexa when it comes to doing things like switching their lights or locking their doors.

I’m not suggesting that Essential doesn’t care about the phone segment of the market, just that they have a bigger picture and a multi-year plan for their company. Or maybe I’m wrong and they just want to sell as many phones as they can. Either way, it’s going to be interesting to watch.

Essential Phone

  • Essential Phone review: First impressions
  • Essential Phone specs
  • The latest Essential Phone news
  • Join our Essential Phone forums!

Amazon
Best Buy
Sprint
Telus

20
Aug

Download the Essential Phone wallpapers here!


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You don’t have to spend $699 to get these wallpapers.

The new Essential Phone has a pretty mind-bending screen with super-tiny bezels, and it just looks even better with one of its default wallpapers loaded. Those wallpapers have picked up some attention, and that’s to be expected — so that’s why we want to offer them up for anyone to use.

Here are six different wallpapers that come pre-loaded on the Essential Phone. A couple of them actually aren’t super-high resolution, but a few of them are. In either case, these wallpapers will surely look great on your phone if you’re looking for something simple, elegant and dark for a wallpaper. Enjoy!

(If you’re viewing this on our mobile app, open the article in a web browser to download to your phone directly!)

Default

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Default 2

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Default 3

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‘Champagne’

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‘Jaune’

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‘Noir’

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Which of this small crop of wallpapers is your favorite? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

Essential Phone

  • Essential Phone review: First impressions
  • Essential Phone specs
  • The latest Essential Phone news
  • Join our Essential Phone forums!

Amazon
Best Buy
Sprint
Telus

20
Aug

Recommended Reading: Netflix’s heroes return in ‘The Defenders’


‘The Defenders’ Is
Thrilling Superhero
Team-Up Entertainment

Mark Hughes,
Forbes

Netflix’s last Marvel series, Iron Fist, didn’t quite offer the same thrills as its previous three original series. Its fourth installment that unites all four heroes debuted today, and so far, the reviews are mostly positive. Forbes details how the streaming service returns to form with The Defenders miniseries. Even though the latest show may not be the best of the Marvel options on Netflix thus far, it’s an improvement after the disappointment of Iron Fist and shows potential for future team-ups with the foursome.

Behind the Hype of ‘Lab-Grown’ Meat
Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Gizmodo

We live in an age of Impossible Burgers and other lab-grown ‘meat’ products, but does the hype outweigh the potential?

How NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts Took Over the Internet
Rob Harvilla, The Ringer

NPR’s “Tiny Desk” concert series is pure delight and The Ringer takes a look at why it’s so captivating.

What Happened to the Negative Music Review?
Neil Shah, The Wall Street Journal

If you’ve found yourself wondering why nearly all music reviews these days are positive, you’re not alone. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at why that’s the case.

Can Rotten Tomatoes Crush a Movie at the Box Office?
Sean Fennessey, The Ringer

Exactly how much does a Rotten Tomatoes rating affect a movie’s performance in theaters? The Ringer weighs in.

20
Aug

Dell founder offers low-key response to Charlottesville violence


Tech giants like Apple and Intel have vocally opposed both the racist violence in Charlottesville and President Trump’s equivocating response to it, but former manufacturing council member Dell has remained silent. Where’s its statement? Well, company founder Michael Dell has finally spoken. The CEO has sent a brief email to employees condemning both the Charlottesville violence and the terrorist attack in Barcelona, but in generic terms. His message declares that “hate is evil” and stresses that Dell is a company where “everyone is welcome,” pointing to the company’s culture code. And… that’s it.

The low-key message stands in contrast to Apple chief Tim Cook’s email to staff, which specifically addressed the President’s remarks and vowed concrete action by donating to anti-racism causes. Uber offered its own modest statement (it only promised customers that it would uphold its existing guidelines and support), but it backed out of the economic advisory council months ago — Dell stuck to the manufacturing council until its disbanding.

We’ve asked Dell if it can provide additional insight for the email. However, the PC maker is already drawing flak from those who see the response as too little, too late. It came days after other tech companies made their views known, and avoids any kind of pointed criticism. Companies like Dell often have to walk a fine to please both the public (on all sides of the political spectrum) and the powers that be, but there are concerns that it’s trying too hard to be inoffensive.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Axios

20
Aug

Uber favors former GE leader as its next CEO


Ever since Uber ousted CEO Travis Kalanick, there’s been one overriding question: just who would be daring enough to replace him and salvage the ridesharing outfit’s tattered reputation? At last, an answer is emerging. Recode sources hear that former GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt (above) is the “frontrunner” out of the three candidates to lead Uber out of the darkness. Reportedly, the company’s board of directors believes Immelt is the most capable of quickly fixing Uber’s toxic culture, including sagging employee morale and abundant legal troubles.

There’s no certainty that Immelt will take the top spot. The other two (as yet unnamed) candidates are still under consideration. If the report is accurate, however, Uber’s board is expected to vote on a new CEO within two weeks.

We’ve asked Uber for comment. However, Immelt could be one of the better choices. A Recode insider notes that Immelt isn’t someone you can “push around easily,” so he could take a firm course of action rather than bow to pressure from insiders. He’s also a well-known industry figure, and isn’t shy about cutting initiatives that don’t fit into his vision. When GE made a big push toward the ‘industrial internet’ under Immelt’s tenure, it ditched or downplayed numerous businesses, including NBC and light blubs. That nothing-is-sacred mentality may be helpful at Uber, where some problems seem deeply entrenched.

Source: Recode

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